Seymour boys cross-country hopes large turnout leads to bigger successes


Walking across the bridge at Freeman Field, an array of different shirts hang on the rafters and over railings of the tunnel.

Typically, you can’t hear the pack running through the forest and over the rolling hills.

This year, however, the group has grown in numbers.

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Seymour High School’s boys cross-country team has morphed from a pack into a stampede.

This season, 28 boys make up the Owls’ unit.

Randy Fife, who has coached the boys team since 2003, said it’s the most kids he has ever had on a team.

“I think it does nothing but makes us better as a team,” Fife said. “In the first two meets, we can run everyone in the same race. After that, it’s a little more competitive. Some races, you can run seven, and others, you can run 12. They want to be in that varsity group. The top 14 make a sectional roster. Even if you’re not in the top group, you’re always looking to move up. There’s always someone to compete with, which fosters more competition.”

Fife coached the Owls to sectional and regional titles in cross-country in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and to a semistate runner-up in 2007. He took boys teams to the state finals in 2007 and 2011 and guided the Owls to the Hoosier Hills Conference title in 2015.

Last season, the Owls advanced as far as the semistate.

Fife credits the middle school program for the growth in numbers. Brad Cobb coaches the Seymour Middle School boys team.

“Last year, we were down to about 18 runners,” Fife said. “It is a big freshman class (nine runners). I think when you get a group of kids that have a positive experience in middle school, they think, ‘Yeah, I’m going to try it in high school.’ It’s not too intimidating. I think some kids think, ‘I run 1.9 miles in middle school. I can’t run high school because they run further and more miles.’ We really don’t start out running more miles. We just kind of take it slow and easy to begin with. I think that word is getting out.

“I think a lot of it has to do with our middle school program. They make it fun for them down there. The kids just want to continue it out here.”

The Owls’ roster has just five seniors this year, and the upperclassmen are making sure they help the underclassmen as much as possible.

“We’re telling them to push themselves and go outside their comfort zones with workouts,” Owls senior Michael Hodge said. “There will be some pain, but by the end, at meets, there will be really good (personal records) that they’ve never thought they could get.”

Seymour also will have eight juniors and six sophomores on the team this year.

Having a bigger group has its challenges, Fife said.

“It’s harder because you want to individualize the training as much as possible,” he said. “You want to pay attention to everybody and know how they run each day and how they feel. It’s hard to get to almost 30 kids. If you have 15 kids at practice, it is a little easier.”

The Owls’ program likely will continue to grow over the next few years, as the EXCL Elementary Cross Country League (started in 2015) and South Central Indiana Running Club grow in participation.

Fife said he and girls coach Spencer Sunbury try to make cross-country a positive experience.

“The kids have to feel like you want to see them succeed and that you’re paying attention to them,” he said. “I try to talk to each runner every day. At the very least say, ‘Hey, how are you doing and feeling today?’ I want them to know I’m glad they’re here and make it a positive experience for them.”

On Thursday, the Owls will host their annual invitational at Freeman Field. Every Seymour runner will participate, which will create streaks of purple throughout the race.

“It will be fun,” Owls junior Luke Bane said. “The ones that finish first like to go back and cheer on our teammates. It’s going to be pretty exciting.”

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